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This is hardly a radical thought, and I’m far from the first to think it.
Our recommendation is to complete the course over four weeks, with one to two hours of time spent working through the course per week.
After the Course Introduction, each section should take approximately one to two hours to complete.
(If only those who post internet comments were as honest with themselves…)The combination of science writing and education has influenced my approach to both, which share a common, overarching goal: to reach out to people and present them with the power, wonder, and relevance of science.
Like most educators, one of my central aims is to impart critical thinking skills— to help students make sound decisions in a confusing world of conflicting information, sales pitches, and smooth-talking politicians.
In the face of this balancing act, the traditional approach is often to simply focus on the details of a particular science (to build that foundation for prospective majors) and assume that the students will absorb the other stuff in the process.
Scientific literacy and critical thinking skills are seen as natural side-effects of studying a science. I don’t think it reliably works that way, especially for students who expect to struggle with and be bored by science classes from the outset.Though critical thinking is universally regarded as a pillar of higher education (including by employers seeking college graduates), results show that students are not developing their critical thinking skills to the extent we expect.For their 2009 book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipsa Rocksa followed a little over 2,300 college students through their first two years of school.Those courses often center on argumentation and literary criticism, or instead on the philosophy of logic, but there are opportunities to expand this— particularly by giving science a larger presence.I think there is an enormous amount of untapped value in a broader model.But the vast majority of my students will never take another Earth science course, and while this information is still useful in their lives (a point on which they may not particularly agree in the moment), there are more important things to be teaching them.There are larger points, like the nature of science and scientific thinking, and the perspective brought on by an appreciation of the complexity of Earth systems and the mind-numbing scale of the universe.The Association for Informal Logic & Critical Thinking and the Foundation for Critical Thinking, for example, have long been advocating for better critical thinking instruction.Where standalone critical thinking courses exist, however, they are mostly found within the humanities and social sciences.It’s irrelevant how much blame should be placed on the school and how much on the students. As an educator, I’ve constantly struggled with how to stimulate growth in these skills.In an introductory Earth science course, my first job is to teach my students about plate tectonics, soil formation, oceanic and atmospheric processes, the climate system—all the things that comprise a firm foundation to build on in further classes.